Find the spirits of Manassas with these real ghost hunters


“Ghost hunting is like fishing,” says Pete Kandel. “And the best bait is us.”

Kandel and his brother Stew are the Ghost Doctors. “It’s embarrassing how long we’ve been doing this,” Stew says, but suffice it to say that the brothers have been researching both science and spirit history for decades. The majority of their careers have been in their hometown of New York City, where they have taken ghost tours of places such as Central Park and Flushing Meadows Park.

But Manassas’ legacy drew the couple to carry on their ethereal business in Northern Virginia. “It has thousands of years of history,” says Pete, pointing to the Powhatan tribe that populated Prince William County before the arrival of European settlers.

On a summer Saturday night, the Kandels had to turn away guests in the hopes of touring with them. Due to COVID, they both wear masks and prefer to keep small groups. There are eight curious souls in the group, at least among the living. The tour starts in front of the Manassas Museum at 8:30 p.m.

There, Pete pulls out a patinated 19th century black doctor’s bag. Inside are electromagnetic field (EMF) detectors for everyone. Well, almost everyone. “Who here has buttery fingers?” ” they ask. Those who do are advised to use their phone’s camera to take photos of the group as the EMF machines begin to power up, rather than being handed the expensive equipment. Pete also wears a thermographic imager to take pictures of the group’s heat signatures (“This is what you look like in the eyes of the Predator,” he says, referring to the ’80s movie monster) while Stew uses an audio recorder. digital.

The Ghost Doctors tell us to keep all of our senses awake. “You are much better than this equipment,” says Pete. Changes in temperature and smells are as important as the sights and sounds, they say. The same goes for good vibes and live music. “It increases the energy in the area,” says Stew.

From the museum, nascent ghost hunters walk with the brothers up Battle Street to the historic Hopkins Candy Factory, now ARTfactory. At each stop, the Kandels encourage guests to touch the buildings and see if their EMF machines turn on. Sometimes they do; often they don’t. “Ghost hunting is not like TV shows,” they admit. “It can take thousands of hours to find something.”

On a 3-mile walk around Manassas Old Town, the group enjoys the dynamic duo’s quick and clever jokes and their exhaustive knowledge of local lore. “The only thing about ghost hunting is that wherever you go you are constantly studying history. You have to really know your craft, ”says Pete, attributing much of the expertise the team has acquired to the Manassas Historical Society.

As you walk back past the museum and the brothers test the group’s abilities with Zener Cards, a game meant to measure a person’s ESP level, one thing becomes clear: On this visit, the living are at less as interesting as the dead. , especially the Ghost Doctors themselves.

This story first appeared in our October issue. For more stories like this subscribe to our monthly magazine.

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